Studying The Bible….

Despite his having written an entire biography of Paul in Acts, Luke seems to be curiously unaware of Paul’s life and ministry as reflected in Paul’s authentic letters. None of Paul’s letters are mentioned in Acts. The language and theology of Paul’s speeches as told by Luke are so different in vocabulary and theology from the Paul of the authentic letters that it seems much of Luke’s Paul can be chalked up to dramatic license. The authentic Paul emphasizes justification and reconciliation while Luke’s “Paul” preaches righteousness and forgiveness. In other words, Luke’s Paul preaches in the theological language of Luke, not Paul.

From the book: Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity (Felten, David;Procter-Murphy, Jeff)

Even after all these years of being a follower of Jesus I am still constantly studying the Bible for new revelations in my life.  As someone in the Bible said the words found there are useful for teaching and understanding.  If only those who put so much emphasis on trying to prove that the Bible is without error and totally God breathed spent time instead trying to learn lessons about Jesus. I have adamantly come to believe that the Bible is a compilation of stories about God. It is not God nor did He dictate all of its words.

When we accept that the stories in the Bible were written by well meaning men, and maybe even a few women, we can see things as cited above. We can then understand that maybe Paul’s letters were just not deemed of great importance at the time.  Maybe they were just that, letters to council some troubled congregations and were not necessarily meant for eternity. Why do the stories of Paul differ so completely from the letters Paul allegedly  wrote?  The only logical and reasoned conclusion is that both the letters and what came to be known as the Book of Acts were written by men and maybe they are not even written by or about the persons we currently ascribe them to.  That fact does not destroy or even reduce their usefulness to us.

There are just too many today who spend all their energies trying to stubbornly stick to some thousand year old beliefs that don’t deserve all the energy devoted to them. If instead these people would spend that energy living out their lives as Jesus showed us. Being a follower of Jesus is more than about proclaiming certain beliefs, it is about actually “being” a disciple…

I will end this post with another quote from the book:

For many religious people, it takes some serious readjustment to change those theological underpinnings and recast Christianity as something fluid. Some are too controlled by fear—of change, of uncertainty, of being called heretical—to make the shift. They keep trying, desperately, to hold on to old conceptions as if their eternal life depended on it. But there are alternatives.

Willing To Change….

Be Willing to Change:

I don’t expect to fully understand God by the time I’m done with middle school, high school, college, or when I retire—faith is a Pilgrim’s Progress, a journey of continual growth and maturity. God is too big and glorious to completely understand within a set amount of time, so my ideas, opinions, and understanding of God—my theology—will change.

But why do you remain static in your belief systems? Why do you spend all of your time and energy promoting your theology as being exclusively correct? In the real world, people change. We learn, we grow, and we meet new people, experience different cultures, and encounter transformational events— life happens.

So stop pretending you’re the exception to the rule and have everything figured out. If you’re a human, you don’t know it all, so quit claiming you do.

SOURCE:  Stephen Mattson: An Open Letter to All Christian Theologians | Red Letter Christians.

As the source title implies the quote above is from an open letter to Christian theologians. As the quote says, I too have grown immensely since my early years in a Catholic grade school. I believe I have matured as a Christian in my thoughts and deeds. It has indeed been a Pilgrim’s Progress for me.

My theology began to drastically change when I entered my middle years. As a person I have never shied away from asking “why”. That has gotten me into more trouble in the church than it probably has anywhere else in my life. So many Christian denomination just don’t like to be questioned about their beliefs or doctrine.

I have come to the conclusion that none of the current or past religious theologies are exclusively correct.  I’m sure I would never have come to this conclusion without asking questions. All religious institutions, and I mean all, are just man’s attempt to understand God. They all put their own spin on God; a spin that meets their current agenda.  I have come to understand that with our puny brains, God is just not totally understandable and he never will be. But that understanding does not mean that I will simply believe what I am told to believe about him.

I do believe that the Christian bible which was written by hundreds of very wise men throughout the ages teaches me about Jesus and his commands of us.  The most basic command is to love God and to love each other. Jesus told us that that the primary lesson that trumps all other messages in the bible. When I hear others either ignore that lesson or try to twist it into something else I approach their words with extreme caution. If they can’t get the simple “love” command right how can I trust that they can get any of it right.

I will never claim that I know it all. Those who make such claims are often building a house of cards that are most likely to fall with the smallest of questions.

Hating the Poor but Loving Jesus?

“Americans react to the poor with disgust,” said Susan Fiske, professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University and the originator of the neuroimaging tests. She has studied attitudes toward the poor for a dozen years. “It’s the most negative prejudice people report, greater even than racism,“ Fiske stated.
No doubt part of that response is aesthetic. Some of those who are very poor – especially those living on the streets – smell bad and are unkempt and shabbily dressed. But a deeper part of the response is moral. The poor are stripped of value in the eyes of many. They are seen as useless, and not just useless, but an actual drain on the more productive and affluent members of society. Not only do they fail to add anything positive to the world, they actually subtract value, like trash piled on a lawn.
How can we see God while despising the needy among us? Scripture declares that it is impossible. “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). Spiritual blindness is the inevitable consequence of hating the poor.
SOURCE:  Craig M. Watts: Hating the Poor but Loving Jesus? | Red Letter Christians.

How The Other Side Sees It….

 “Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man … living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.” ― George Carlin

 Sadly this is far too often the side of Christianity that many people see.  Sounds kind of foolish doesn’t it? If only we concentrated on the words and lessons of Jesus instead of so many of the fables of the Old Testament….

Shane Claiborne’s Statement on Syria – Red Letter Christians

SyriaRight after 9/11, I asked a kid in my neighborhood what we should do in response.  His answer: “Those people did something very wrong…”  He thought pensively and continued, “But two wrongs don’t make a right.”  As Martin Luther King taught us, you cannot fight fire with fire, you only get a bigger fire.  You fight fire with water.  You fight violence with nonviolence.  You fight hatred with love.  As a Christian, a follower of Jesus the Prince of Peace, I am deeply troubled about the possibility of a military response to the violence in Syria.  Jesus consistently teaches us another way to respond to evil, a third way – neither fight nor flight.  He teaches that evil can be opposed without being mirrored, oppressors resisted without being emulated, enemies neutralized without being destroyed.  I am praying that the nonviolent imagination of Jesus and MLK would move the leaders of our country and our world to find another way forward than violence.  When I heard US military leaders calculating the collateral damage of an attack on Syria (“classified” information), something feels terribly wrong.  Christ once scolded his own disciple who tried to use the sword to protect him.  After healing the wounded persecutor, he said to Peter, “If you pick up the sword you will die by the sword. Put your sword back.”  Over and over we have tried to use the sword – in Iraq, in Afghanistan, now possibly in Syria… and the sword has failed.  The cure becomes as bad as the disease.  When we fight fire with fire, we only get a bigger fire, and a bigger mess.   Two wrongs do not make a right.
Photo Credit: ValeStock / Shutterstock.com
SOURCE:  Shane Claiborne’s Statement on Syria – Red Letter Christians.

 

Inspiring Quotes…

3)  We turn Christianity into a culture rather than a lifestyle.
We have turned Christianity into a market.  We have reduced Christianity to products we consume, sell, and advertise.  We are more about profits than prophets.  Christianity has become a culture rather than a lifestyle.  We’ve been taught to consume Christian products rather than being Christian.  We’ve been taught to be salespeople for Jesus rather than true followers of Jesus.  Living a Christian lifestyle means Christ’s love has penetrated so deep into our heart that our lives begin to embody that love in real and tangible ways.  We want everyone to know they are loved.  We want everyone fed, clothed, housed, welcomed, included, employed, supported, tutored, visited, forgiven, and freed.
SOURCE: Shawn Casselberry: Gandhi-Style Evangelism | Red Letter Christians.

He Told Us How To Do It……

The Lord’s prayer is rightly the most spoken prayer in Christianity. But there are several statement in that prayer that are for the most part glossed over by many in the current day church.  One of the most obvious is “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  Here is what Martin Luther thought of these words:

The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.

As expected, due to Luther’s extremely low image of self-worth he puts it all on God and nothing on man. Why would we need to pray that God’s will be done if it will happen irregardless of what we do or say? Luther was one of the primary people to help turn Christianity into a seemingly do-nothing religion. He has convinced so many that all you need to do is to say the right words and then get a “get into heaven free” card to use after your death.  Luther adamantly believed that all of us should be able to read the words of God, not just the Pope and his bastions. I certainly thank him for  helping to make that happen. I just wished he had not focused so much on one particular verse (you are saved by grace alone)  in order to justify his personal feelings and seemingly ignored so many of Jesus’ commands.

Jesus, through his many words in the Gospels made it ultimately clear how we as his followers were to make God’s kingdom come to earth. We are to love God with all our hearts and love our fellow man, even our enemies.

Was Jesus wasting his breath giving us all his commands when everything was actually pre-determined and set in stone?

Another of the perhaps the most quoted verse in the Bible has the most important verse glossed over by us Christians. The Great Commission as it has been called says:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

We do a great job of baptizing and an ok job of teaching but why do we almost totally ignore his words to obey his commands?

Jesus told us how to make heaven on earth. He almost gave us a roadmap to make it happen. I personally look at that roadmap daily and try to keep my life well within the lines. Do I do this perfectly? Obviously not, but I will strive till the day I die to fulfill his words and  yes, obey is commands.

Lost Energy….

I want to apologize to those of you who read this blog. It seems I have just lost the energy to continue to post here on a regular basis. The futility of convincing some to look at Jesus’ words in a different light has simply become too exhausting for me. Convincing people to concentrate on “being” a Christian as apposed to just believing certain things is more than I can handle right now.

While I will continue to do my best in being a better follower of Jesus Christ and that means listening to his words and doing my best to follow his commands I need step back from RLL for a while to take a break. If/when I am rejuvenated I will continue again but maybe with a different format. I don’t know right now. Please be patient with my lost fervor….

Mislabeling the Word of God – Red Letter Christians

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1, ESV

The Bible is not the “Word of God.” It is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It contains words of God. It even talks about the Word of God… but it is still not THE Word of God. The Word of God is actually Jesus Christ. Not the words of Jesus, but Christ himself. This little misunderstanding has created a whole heap of confusion about the point Christianity and how we are to use Scripture in our lives.

While I would like to claim I am being brave with this topic, I was actually inspired by Zack Hunt’s recent article, The Bible Isn’t Perfect And It Says So Itself. As he has opened the Pandora’s box for discussion, I felt compelled to chime in. My contribution to is not to question the inerrancy of Scripture, which I believe, but define differently from most, but rather it’s place in the mental, spiritual, and religious life of Christians.

Source Yaholo Hoyt: Mislabeling the Word of God – Red Letter Christians.

 

Another inspirational post over at Red Letter Christians that needs no comments. Click on the source above to see the whole post….

Jesus Was A Radical…..

Jesus says some stuff in the inaugural speech of his ministry that really upsets the status quo of both the religious and non-religious.  In essence, he says, “If you are to follow me as King of this newly inaugurated Kingdom of God, you will need to start loving your enemies as much as yourself.  You will need to start getting creative in how you deal with your oppressors in order to choose the way of love and reconciliation rather than the way of revenge and contempt.  In fact, when you live as peacemakers, you best reflect what it looks like to be children of God.  Those of you that choose this way of life will be blessed.”

Source:  The Violence of Peacemaking – Jon Huckins – Red Letter Christians.

Jesus was a radical!  There is no getting around that fact.  Many of my conservative friends and their associated Christian denominations try to get around the fact that Jesus was a radical by pretty much ignoring much of what he said.  They instead pick and choose those bible verses that seem, at least on the surface, to align with their current worldview.  They hunker down in their pews ranting about all the sinners and such in the big bad world out there. They madly choose to only associate with others who think like them.  They reject any change in their current way of seeing the world for fear that they will fall down an imaginary  slippery slope into the abject sinfulness they see all around them. They  choose to concentrate on their personal salvation instead of Jesus’ “love your enemy” mantra. Loving your enemies is a concept very foreign to them.   In other words they are internally focused rather than outwardly focused.

In the kingdom of God that Jesus spoke so freely about, Christians are instructed to be peacemakers.  In God’s Kingdom there is no ‘us” vs. “them”. We are all children of God, that means each and every soul on this earth. It seems many Christians today would rather spend their money building lavish churches with all the creature comforts rather than making sure no one goes to bed hungry. We would rather buy that second or third vacation home rather than support humanitarian efforts around the world. We would rather buy that luxury car rather than pay a little more in taxes to insure that healthcare is a right for all of us rather than a privilege for only those who can afford it.

How can so many of us be so blind to so much that is in our bibles?  How can we pick and choose only those words that don’t make us uncomfortable? These are things that I am praying the emergent church movement will rectify.  Someone needs to push us off the comfortable path of our own choosing and back on the path of Jesus’ teachings.  Someone needs to show us how to love our fellowman and to make it clear to us that include everyone else. Jesus was a radical. How has his church become so conservative?